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In the world of Philadelphia Zoning, there's nothing more predictable than receiving a letter marked, "Request for Additional Information."   There's also nothing less predictable than a letter marked "Request for Additional Information."   An additional information request is sent by Licenses and Inspections whenever one of their plans examiners wants — well, to know more about your project.  Here's a recent example from our files:  Philadelphia Zoning applied...

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One of the most sensible and also counter-intuitive parts of the zoning process in Philly is the community review.   Any time you want to use your property for something that the zoning code doesn't allow, you must seek a variance from the City of Philadelphia (as we've discussed).  When you seek a variance, a community organization in Philadelphia gets to review the proposal before the City...

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Wait, I have to get approval from what?   Ah, prerequisite approvals!  Who doesn't love that giddy sensation?  You know the one:  You walk up to the desk at Licenses and Inspections, submit your carefully prepared application, and are told in a dead monotone, "This needs approval from Streets before we'll look at it."   There's no way around it: Prerequisite approvals are rough.  In this story, you need...

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Zoning in Philadelphia is a strange enterprise.  The ideas behind it are simple, and the people working the desks downtown are generally helpful and clear.  But in practice, it can be quite confusing.  This little overview probably won’t make the strange details of zoning any less confusing, but it may give you a clearer picture of the overall structure of zoning complaints, requests, and applications...

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    Say you want to open a coffee shop.  You’ve found a place, in a quiet block, and the building is perfect: homey, but a little more spacious than you might expect.  It’s on a corner, too.  But it’s zoned RSA-5 (as you might already know if you’re reading this: Residential Single-Family, Attached; Category 5 of 5).  So you aren’t allowed, under Philadelphia law, to open...

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